by Ailan Evans
Facebook is remaining silent as to whether it will change its content policy regarding Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, who was found not guilty of several charges Friday.
During riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020 after the shooting of Jacob Blake, Rittenhouse, then seventeen years old, shot three men in self-defense during an altercation, killing two of them. Rittenhouse was later arrested and charged with intentional homicide before being acquitted on all charges Friday afternoon.
Following the shooting, a Facebook spokesperson informed the Daily Caller News Foundation that Rittenhouse had been placed on the company’s list of “dangerous individuals and organizations” and that the shooting had been designated a “mass murder.”
The tech giant began deleting certain posts from its platform regarding Rittenhouse; a tweet from Facebook director of Counterterrorism and Dangerous Organizations Brian Fishman clarified that the company would be “removing praise and support of the shooter” from its platform.
The tech giant also blocked searches for “Kyle Rittenhouse” and removed his personal Facebook account and related pages.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Facebook over a dozen times throughout the course of Rittenhouse’s trial to ask whether the tech giant would change its policies. Facebook never responded.
Following the shooting and Rittenhouse’s arrest, many posts that characterized the then 17 year old as guilty were permitted to remain on the site. A post from popular left-wing news and analysis site The Palmer Report links to an article referring to Rittenhouse as a “17-year-old murderer” and “trash insult to humanity,” claiming that Rittenhouse was “murdering the public.”
Another post from The Daily Kos, a verified news site with over one million followers, calls Rittenhouse a “pro-Trump murderer,” while The Raw Story describes the Kenosha shootings as “vigilante killings.”
Posts from prominent public figures, including former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, that treated Rittenhouse as a murderer were also left up. Reich described Rittenhouse’s actions as “coldblooded (sic) murder” and Rittenhouse himself as a “17-year-old who murdered two protesters.”
Journalist and activist Shaun King said Rittenhouse “murdered 2 people” and was a “domestic terrorist.” Jemele Hill, a staff writer for The Atlantic and former ESPN host, said Rittenhouse “murdered two people in cold blood.”
A post from Slate called Rittenhouse a “villain” and said his “crimes” were “not justified,” while commentary published by Salon likened his actions to domestic terrorism, and The New Republic called the shooting “political violence.”
Several other tech companies also took steps to change or enforce their content moderation policies following the Kenosha shooting. Crowdfunding site GoFundMe took down efforts to raise money for Rittenhouse’s legal defense, while Twitter allowed articles linking to hacked records of other Rittenhouse legal defense fundraisers to circulate on its platform.
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Ailan Evans is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Facebook” by Quintano Media. CC BY 2.0.